Posted: Jul 26, 2013 6:00 AM
 
I'm not much of a royalty gawker, and clearly OK! magazine is a tabloid, but I'm still shocked at the depths the media will go in their objectification of women.

Within a day of delivering her baby boy, Kate Middleton's body was scrutinized by OK! magazine. Now, I realize OK! is basically a tabloid and should probably be dismissed as such, but its objectification of women and commodification of the female body is reflective of Western culture's misogynistic media in general, and therefore, it deserves some analysis.

As you can see here, the cover of the magazine is plastered with a photo of Kate and her postpartum belly. It states "Kate's post-baby weight-loss regime" and "OK! talks to Kate's trainer: "She's super-fit. Her stomach will shrink right back."

Oh good, because I was worried she would be one of those hideous not-super-fit women whose bellies stay bulging for the duration! That sentence was dripping with sarcasm, but basically, that's exactly what OK! was doing: Assuring the world that Kate would continue to fulfill society's expectations of bodily perfection.

As if that's what matters

I used the word "misogyny" in the title of this article. Most dictionaries define misogyny as a "hatred of women," which seems pretty straightforward, but how is OK!'s critique of Kate's belly "misogynistic?"

Because in our heteronormative, patriarchal society, it is the male gaze that dictates the way women are portrayed and critiqued in the media.

Well I'll tell you: Somehow, the female body (in this instance Kate Middleton's) is made into an object removed from its owner, observed, assessed and valued by men. Why men? Because in our heteronormative, patriarchal society, it is the male gaze that dictates the way women are portrayed and critiqued in the media. The man decides what's "hot" and what's not.

There is an ideal (thin, flat-belly, model material) and there is a less-than-ideal (bulging belly, fat, etc.). A woman, because she is not the owner of her own body (obviously), should do what she can to gain the approval of the patriarchy.

In other words, Kate's body is not Kate's. It does not belong to the woman who just gave birth to a human baby, performing an extremely intimate, private and sacred act, but rather it is a temporarily defective object (read: bulging belly) that can be held up for analysis by a third party. And while it's not in its best form (though of course it is exactly as it should be!), the magazine assures us it will be remedied immediately because Kate is woman enough ("super-fit") to regain her place as a proper object.

And this, parents, is why it matters what we say to our sons and daughters about female (and male) bodies. How often do we assess, criticize and examine the body of another? How often do we make fun of the way a woman is dressed, eyeing her like she's doing something wrong because she's dressed "trashy" or in an outfit "too revealing for her body?"

How often do we assess, criticize and examine the body of another? How often do we make fun of the way a woman is dressed, eyeing her like she's doing something wrong because she's dressed "trashy" or in an outfit "too revealing for her body?"

How often do we torment ourselves for not looking the way "we should look?"

Our kids are watching this and they're learning. They're learning who has control of bodies and whose judgments count. They're learning what's acceptable and what's unacceptable.

What are they learning from you?

In a culture that thinks the paramount concern for a woman who just gave birth is the reduction of her belly, in a culture that takes it upon itself to assess her ability to do so and plaster it across headlines, in a culture like that, what chance do our daughters have to not turn that process on themselves? How can our daughters stay owners of their own bodies?

When was the last time you saw a cover story regarding some man's ability to lose his bulging gut?

Yeah, exactly.

This is what our kids are up against, people: Our daughters becoming the objectified, our sons the objectifiers.

That cover tells a long, dark story of sexism, oppression and violence toward women.

Only we can see it, fight against it and work to change the narrative.

More on gender

Teach your kids to be flexible about gender
100 Years ago, boys wore dresses and pink
Coy Mathis, redefining acceptance by the second grade

Photo credit: WENN.com

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